Episcopal Church (United States)

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The Episcopal Church
Shield of the US Episcopal Church.svg
Arms of the Episcopal Church includes both a St George's Cross and a St. Andrew's cross composed of nine cross crosslets
Classification Anglican
Polity Episcopal
Parishes6,423 (2018)
Headquarters815 Second Avenue
New York, New York
United States
Territory United States
Further dioceses in Taiwan, Micronesia, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Europe
Separated from Church of England
Absorbed Church of Hawaii (1890s)
Members1,403,984 communicant members and 1,835,931 active baptized members (2018) [1]
1,676,349 active baptized members in the U.S. [1]
Official website www.episcopalchurch.org OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

The Episcopal Church (TEC) is a member church of the worldwide Anglican Communion based in the United States with dioceses elsewhere. It is a mainline Christian denomination divided into nine provinces. The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church is Michael Bruce Curry, the first African-American bishop to serve in that position.

Anglican Communion International association of churches

The Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion. Founded in 1867 in London, England, the communion currently has 85 million members within the Church of England and other national and regional churches in full communion. The traditional origins of Anglican doctrines are summarised in the Thirty-nine Articles (1571). The Archbishop of Canterbury in England acts as a focus of unity, recognised as primus inter pares, but does not exercise authority in Anglican provinces outside of the Church of England.

Diocese Christian district or see under the supervision of a bishop

The word diocese is derived from the Greek term dioikesis (διοίκησις) meaning "administration". Today, when used in an ecclesiastical sense, it refers to the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop. Sometimes it is also called bishopric.

Mainline Protestant Older, more establishment Protestant denominations

The mainline Protestant churches are a group of Protestant denominations in the United States that contrast in history and practice with evangelical, fundamentalist, and charismatic Protestant denominations. Some make a distinction between "mainline" and "oldline", with the former referring only to denominational ties and the latter referring to church lineage, prestige and influence. However, this distinction has largely been lost to history and the terms are now nearly synonymous. These terms are also increasingly used in other countries for the same purpose of distinguishing between the so-called oldline and neo-Protestants.


In 2018, the Episcopal Church had 1,835,931 baptized members, of whom 1,676,349 were in the United States. [1] In 2011, it was the nation's 14th largest denomination. [2] In 2015, Pew Research estimated that 1.2 percent of the adult population in the United States, or 3 million people, self-identify as mainline Episcopalians. [3]

The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan American think tank based in Washington, D.C. It provides information on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends shaping the United States and the world. It also conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis, and other empirical social science research. The Pew Research Center does not take policy positions, and is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The church was organized after the American Revolution, when it became separate from the Church of England, whose clergy are required to swear allegiance to the British monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The Episcopal Church describes itself as "Protestant, yet Catholic". [4] The Episcopal Church claims apostolic succession, tracing its bishops back to the apostles via holy orders. The Book of Common Prayer , a collection of traditional rites, blessings, liturgies, and prayers used throughout the Anglican Communion, is central to Episcopal worship.

American Revolution Revolt in which the Thirteen Colonies won independence from Great Britain

The American Revolution was a colonial revolt which occurred between 1765 and 1783. The American Patriots in the Thirteen Colonies defeated the British in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) with the assistance of France, winning independence from Great Britain and establishing the United States of America.

Church of England Anglican state church of England

The Church of England is the established church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric, although the monarch is the supreme governor. The Church of England is also the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the third century, and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.

Supreme Governor of the Church of England Title held by the British Monarch

Supreme Governor of the Church of England is a title held by the British monarch which signifies titular leadership over the Church of England. Although the monarch's authority over the Church of England is largely ceremonial, the position is still very relevant to the church and is mostly observed in a symbolic capacity. As the Supreme Governor, the monarch formally appoints high-ranking members of the church on the advice of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who is in turn advised by church leaders.

The Episcopal Church was active in the Social Gospel movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. [5] Since the 1960s and 1970s, the church has pursued a decidedly more liberal course. It has opposed the death penalty and supported the civil rights movement and affirmative action. Some of its leaders and priests are known for marching with influential civil rights demonstrators such as Martin Luther King Jr. The church calls for the full legal equality of LGBT people. In 2015, the church's 78th triennial General Convention passed resolutions allowing the blessing of same-sex marriages and approved two official liturgies to bless such unions. [6]

The Social Gospel was a movement in Protestantism that applied Christian ethics to social problems, especially issues of social justice such as economic inequality, poverty, alcoholism, crime, racial tensions, slums, unclean environment, child labour, inadequate labour unions, poor schools, and the danger of war. It was most prominent in the early-20th-century United States and Canada. Theologically, the Social Gospellers sought to put into practice the Lord's Prayer : "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". They typically were postmillennialist; that is, they believed the Second Coming could not happen until humankind rid itself of social evils by human effort. The Social Gospel was more popular among clergy than laity. Its leaders were predominantly associated with the liberal wing of the progressive movement, and most were theologically liberal, although a few were also conservative when it came to their views on social issues. Important leaders included Richard T. Ely, Josiah Strong, Washington Gladden, and Walter Rauschenbusch.

Liberal Christianity A method of biblical hermeneutics

Liberal Christianity, also known as liberal theology, covers diverse philosophically and biblically informed religious movements and ideas within Christianity from the late 18th century onward. Liberal does not refer to progressive Christianity or to political liberalism but to the philosophical and religious thought that developed and grew as a consequence of the Enlightenment.

Civil rights movement Social movement in the United States during the 20th century

The civil rights movement in the United States was a decades-long struggle with the goal of enforcing constitutional and legal rights for African Americans that white Americans already enjoyed. With roots that dated back to the Reconstruction era during the late 19th century, the movement achieved its largest legislative gains in the mid-1960s, after years of direct actions and grassroots protests that were organized from the mid-1950s until 1968. Encompassing strategies, various groups, and organized social movements to accomplish the goals of ending legalized racial segregation, disenfranchisement, and discrimination in the United States, the movement, using major nonviolent campaigns, eventually secured new recognition in federal law and federal protection for all Americans.

The Episcopal Church ordains women and LGBT people to the priesthood, the diaconate, and the episcopate, despite opposition from a number of other member churches of the Anglican Communion. In 2003, Gene Robinson became the first openly gay person ordained as a bishop.

Ordination of women discussion of womens possibilities for priesthood

The ordination of women to ministerial or priestly office is an increasingly common practice among some major religious groups of the present time. It remains a controversial issue in certain Christian denominations where "ordination" has for almost 2,000 years been limited only to men.

The ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) clergy who are open about their sexuality, are sexually active if lesbian, gay, or bisexual, or are in committed same-sex relationships is a debated practice within some contemporary Christian Church communities.

Gene Robinson Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire

Vicky Gene Robinson is a former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. Robinson was elected bishop coadjutor in 2003 and succeeded as bishop diocesan in March 2004. Before becoming bishop, he served as Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese of New Hampshire.


Flag of the Episcopal Church Flag of the US Episcopal Church.svg
Flag of the Episcopal Church

The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (PECUSA) and "The Episcopal Church" (TEC) are both official names specified in the church's constitution. [7] The latter is much more commonly used. [8] [9] [10] In other languages, an equivalent is used. For example, in Spanish, the church is called La Iglesia Episcopal Protestante de los Estados Unidos de América or La Iglesia Episcopal. [11] and in French L'Église protestante épiscopale dans les États Unis d'Amérique or L'Église épiscopale. [12]

Until 1964, "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America" was the only official name in use. In the 19th century, High Church members advocated changing the name, which they felt did not acknowledge the church's Catholic heritage. They were opposed by the church's evangelical wing, which felt that the "Protestant Episcopal" label accurately reflected the Reformed character of Anglicanism. After 1877, alternative names were regularly proposed and rejected by the General Convention. One proposed alternative was "the American Catholic Church". By the 1960s, opposition to dropping the word "Protestant" had largely subsided. In a 1964 General Convention compromise, priests and lay delegates suggested adding a preamble to the church's constitution, recognizing "The Episcopal Church" as a lawful alternate designation while still retaining the earlier name. [13]

The 66th General Convention voted in 1979 to use the name "The Episcopal Church" in the Oath of Conformity of the Declaration for Ordination. [14] The evolution of the name can be seen in the church's Book of Common Prayer. In the 1928 BCP, the title page read, "According to the use of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America", whereas on the title page of the 1979 BCP it states, "'According to the use of The Episcopal Church". [15]

The Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) has never been an official name of the church but is an alternative commonly seen in English. Since several other churches in the Anglican Communion also use the name "Episcopal", including Scotland and the Philippines, some, for example Anglicans Online, add the phrase "in the United States of America". [16]

The full legal name of the national church corporate body is the "Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America", [7] which was incorporated by the legislature of New York and established in 1821. The membership of the corporation "shall be considered as comprehending all persons who are members of the Church". [7] [17] This should not be confused with the name of the church itself, as it is a distinct body relating to church governance. [7]


Colonial era

St. Luke's Church, built during the 17th century near Smithfield, Virginia - the oldest Anglican church-building to have survived largely intact in North America. Newport parish west facade.jpg
St. Luke's Church, built during the 17th century near Smithfield, Virginia - the oldest Anglican church-building to have survived largely intact in North America.

The Episcopal Church has its origins in the Church of England in the American colonies, and it stresses continuity with the early universal Western Church and claims to maintain apostolic succession (though the Catholic and Orthodox churches do not recognize this claim). [18]

The first parish was founded in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, under the charter of the Virginia Company of London. The tower of Jamestown Church (c. 1639–43) is one of the oldest surviving Anglican church structures in the United States. The Jamestown church building itself is a modern reconstruction. [19]

Although no American Anglican bishops existed in the colonial era, the Church of England had an official status in several colonies, which meant that local governments paid tax money to local parishes, and the parishes handled some civic functions. The Church of England was designated the established church in Virginia in 1609, in New York in 1693, in Maryland in 1702, in South Carolina in 1706, in North Carolina in 1730, and in Georgia in 1758. [20]

From 1635 the vestries and the clergy came loosely under the diocesan authority of the Bishop of London. After 1702, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) began missionary activity throughout the colonies. On the eve of Revolution about 400 independent congregations were reported[ by whom? ] throughout the colonies.

Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg, established in 1674. The current building was completed in 1715. Colonial Williamsburg Parish Church.jpg
Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg, established in 1674. The current building was completed in 1715.

Revolutionary era

Embracing the symbols of the British presence in the American colonies, such as the monarchy, the episcopate, and even the language of the Book of Common Prayer, the Church of England almost drove itself to extinction during the upheaval of the American Revolution. [21] More than any other denomination, the War of Independence internally divided both clergy and laity of the Church of England in America, and opinions covered a wide spectrum of political views: patriots, conciliators, and loyalists. While many Patriots were suspicious of Loyalism in the church, about three-quarters of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were nominally Anglican laymen, including Thomas Jefferson, William Paca, and George Wythe. [22] It was often assumed that persons considered "High Church" were Loyalists, whereas persons considered "Low Church" were Patriots: assumptions with possibly dangerous implications for the time.

Old North Church in Boston. Inspired by the work of Christopher Wren, it was completed in 1723. Old North Church Boston DSC 0816 ad.JPG
Old North Church in Boston. Inspired by the work of Christopher Wren, it was completed in 1723.

Of the approximately three hundred clergy in the Church of England in America between 1776 and 1783, over 80 percent in New England, New York, and New Jersey were loyalists. This is in contrast to the less than 23 percent loyalist clergy in the four southern colonies. [22] Many Church of England clergy remained loyalists as they took their two ordination oaths very seriously. Anglican clergy were obliged to swear allegiance to the king as well as to pray for the king, the royal family, and the British Parliament. [22] In general, loyalist clergy stayed by their oaths and prayed for the king or else suspended services. [22] By the end of 1776, some Anglican churches were closing. [22] Anglican priests held services in private homes or lay readers who were not bound by the oaths held morning and evening prayer. [22] During 1775 and 1776, the Continental Congress had issued decrees ordering churches to fast and pray on behalf of the patriots. [22] Starting July 4, 1776, Congress and several states passed laws making prayers for the king and British Parliament acts of treason. [22] The patriot clergy in the South were quick to find reasons to transfer their oaths to the American cause and prayed for the success of the Revolution. [22] One precedent was the transfer of oaths during the Glorious Revolution in England. [22] Most of the patriot clergy in the South were able to keep their churches open and services continued. [22]

Early Republic era

In the wake of the Revolution, American Episcopalians faced the task of preserving a hierarchical church structure in a society infused with republican values.

Trinity Church in Swedesboro, New Jersey. Originally serving a Church of Sweden congregation, it became an Episcopal church in 1786, when this building was completed. Old Swedes 2 NJ.JPG
Trinity Church in Swedesboro, New Jersey. Originally serving a Church of Sweden congregation, it became an Episcopal church in 1786, when this building was completed.

When the clergy of Connecticut elected Samuel Seabury as their bishop in 1783, he sought consecration in England. The Oath of Supremacy prevented Seabury's consecration in England, so he went to Scotland; the non-juring Scottish bishops there consecrated him in Aberdeen on November 14, 1784, making him, in the words of scholar Arthur Carl Piepkorn, "the first Anglican bishop appointed to minister outside the British Isles". [23] [24] On August 3, 1785, the first ordinations on American soil took place at Christ Church in Middletown, Connecticut.

By 1786, the church had succeeded in translating episcopacy to America and in revising the Book of Common Prayer to reflect American political realities. Later, through the efforts of Bishop Philander Chase (1775–1852) of Ohio, Americans successfully sought material assistance from England for the purpose of training Episcopal clergy. The development of the Protestant Episcopal Church provides an example of how Americans in the early republic maintained important cultural ties with England. [25]

In 1787, two priests – William White of Pennsylvania and Samuel Provoost of New York – were consecrated as bishops by the archbishop of Canterbury, the archbishop of York, and the bishop of Bath and Wells, the legal obstacles having been removed by the passage through Parliament of the Consecration of Bishops Abroad Act 1786. Thus there are two branches of Apostolic succession for the American bishops: through the non-juring bishops of Scotland who consecrated Samuel Seabury and through the English church who consecrated William White and Samuel Provoost. All bishops in the American Church are ordained by at least three bishops. One can trace the succession of each back to Seabury, White and Provoost. (See Succession of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.)

In 1789, [ when? ] representative clergy from nine dioceses met in Philadelphia to ratify the church's initial constitution. The Episcopal Church was formally separated from the Church of England in 1789 so that clergy would not be required to accept the supremacy of the British monarch. A revised version of the Book of Common Prayer was written for the new church that same year. The fourth bishop of the Episcopal Church was James Madison, the first bishop of Virginia. Madison was consecrated in 1790 by the Archbishop of Canterbury and two other Church of England bishops. This third American bishop consecrated within the English line of succession occurred because of continuing unease within the Church of England over Seabury's non-juring Scottish orders. [22] The Episcopal Church thus became the first Anglican Province outside the British Isles. [26]

On 17 September 1792, at the triennial general convention (synod) of the Episcopal Church at Trinity Church on Wall Street, in New York City, Thomas John Claggett was elected the first bishop of Maryland. He was the first bishop of the Episcopal Church ordained and consecrated in America and the fifth Bishop consecrated for the Episcopal Church in the United States. [27]

Nineteenth century

St. John's Episcopal Church, built in 1816 in Washington, D.C., is known as the "Church of the Presidents" for the many presidents who have worshiped there. St. John's Episcopal Church.JPG
St. John's Episcopal Church, built in 1816 in Washington, D.C., is known as the "Church of the Presidents" for the many presidents who have worshiped there.

In 1856 the first society for African Americans in the Episcopal Church was founded by James Theodore Holly. Named The Protestant Episcopal Society for Promoting The Extension of The Church Among Colored People, the society argued that blacks should be allowed to participate in seminaries and diocesan conventions. The group lost its focus when Holly emigrated to Haiti, but other groups followed after the Civil War. The current Union of Black Episcopalians traces its history to the society. [28] Holly went on to found the Anglican Church in Haiti, where he became the first African-American bishop on November 8, 1874. As Bishop of Haiti, Holly was the first African American to attend the Lambeth Conference. [29] However, he was consecrated by the American Church Missionary Society, an Evangelical Episcopal branch of the Church.

Episcopal missions chartered by African-Americans in this era were chartered as a Colored Episcopal Mission. All other missions (white) were chartered as an Organized Episcopal Mission. Many historically Black parishes are still in existence to date. [30]

St. John's Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama, established in 1834. The church building was completed in 1855. The Secession Convention of Southern Churches was held here in 1861. St. John's Episcopal Montgomery Feb 2012 02.jpg
St. John's Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama, established in 1834. The church building was completed in 1855. The Secession Convention of Southern Churches was held here in 1861.

When the American Civil War began in 1861, Episcopalians in the South formed the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. However, in the North the separation was never officially recognized. By May 16, 1866, the southern dioceses had rejoined the national church. [31]

By the middle of the 19th century, evangelical Episcopalians disturbed by High Church Tractarianism, while continuing to work in interdenominational agencies, formed their own voluntary societies, and eventually, in 1874, a faction objecting to the revival of ritual practices established the Reformed Episcopal Church. [32]

Samuel David Ferguson was the first black bishop consecrated by the Episcopal Church, the first to practice in the U.S. and the first black person to sit in the House of Bishops. Bishop Ferguson was consecrated on June 24, 1885, with the then-Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church acting as a consecrator.

During the Gilded Age, highly prominent laity such as banker J. P. Morgan, industrialist Henry Ford, and art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner played a central role in shaping a distinctive upper class Episcopalian ethos, especially with regard to preserving the arts and history. These philanthropists propelled the Episcopal Church into a quasi-national position of importance while at the same time giving the church a central role in the cultural transformation of the country. [33] Another mark of influence is the fact that more than a quarter of all presidents of the United States have been Episcopalians (see religious affiliations of Presidents of the United States). It was during this period that the Book of Common Prayer was revised, first in 1892 and later in 1928.

Era of change (1958–1970s)

At the 1958 general convention, a coalition of liberal church members succeeded in passing a resolution recognizing "the natural dignity and value of every man, of whatever color or race, as created in the image of God". It called on Episcopalians "to work together, in charity and forbearance, towards the establishment ... of full opportunities in fields such as education, housing, employment and public accommodations". In response, the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity (ESCRU) was founded in December 1959 in order to eliminate racial, ethnic and class barriers within the Episcopal Church. Opposition from southern church leaders prevented the Episcopal Church from taking a strong stand on civil rights prior to 1963. One prominent opponent of the movement was Charles C.J. Carpenter, the Bishop of Alabama. [34] By 1963, many church leaders felt more comfortable speaking out in support of racial equality. That year, Presiding Bishop Arthur Lichtenberger wrote a pastoral letter urging Christians to work "across lines of racial separation, in a common struggle for justice", and the House of Bishops endorsed civil rights legislation. [35]

In 1967, Lichtenberger's successor, John Hines led the Episcopal Church to implement the General Convention Special Program (GCSP). The program was designed to redirect nine million dollars over a three-year period (a quarter of the church's operating budget at the time) to fund special grants for community organizations and grassroots efforts facilitating black empowerment in America's urban ghettos. [36] The effectiveness of the GCSP was limited due to the reluctance of conservative bishops in southern dioceses, who objected to the awarding of grants to groups perceived as radical. The GCSP also drew opposition from the recently formed Foundation for Christian Theology, a conservative organization opposed to "involv[ing] the Church in the social, political, and economic activities of our times". The tension between liberal and conservative constituencies in the church erupted during the Special General Convention of 1969. The convention was disrupted by black militants who demanded that the Episcopal Church hear their concerns. When white deputies objected to allowing the militants a hearing, African-American deputies walked out of the convention. The Special General Convention also witnessed protests of the Vietnam War. During this time period, African-American clergy organized the Union of Black Episcopalians to achieve full inclusion of African Americans at all levels of the Episcopal Church. [37]

The liberal policies of Presiding Bishop Hines and the general conventions of 1967 and 1969 led to a conservative reaction. Facing declining membership and a one million dollar budget cut, the Special Program became an easy target for conservatives, who succeeded in drastically reducing the financial support for the program in 1970. It was finally ended in 1973 with little protest. A year later, Hines was succeeded by John M. Allin, the Bishop of Mississippi and a conservative. [38]

The first women were admitted as delegates to the church's general convention in 1970. [39] In 1975, Vaughan Booker, who confessed to the murder of his wife and was sentenced to life in prison, was ordained to the diaconate in Graterford State Prison's chapel in Pennsylvania, after having repented of his sins, becoming a symbol of redemption and atonement. [40] [41]

Recent history

In recent decades, the Episcopal Church, like other mainline churches, has experienced a decline in membership as well as internal controversy over women's ordination and the place of homosexuals in the church. The 1976 General Convention also passed a resolution calling for an end to apartheid in South Africa and in 1985 called for "dioceses, institutions, and agencies" to create equal opportunity employment and affirmative action policies to address any potential "racial inequities" in clergy placement. Because of these and other controversial issues including abortion, individual members and clergy can and do frequently disagree with the stated position of the church's leadership. In January 2016, the Anglican Primates Meeting at Canterbury decided that in response to the "distance" caused by what it called "unilateral action on matters of doctrine without catholic unity", "for a period of three years, The Episcopal Church [would neither] represent [the Communion] on ecumenical and interfaith bodies… [nor] take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity." [42]

Revised prayer book

In 1976, the General Convention adopted a new prayer book, which was a substantial revision and modernization of the previous 1928 edition. It incorporated many principles of the Roman Catholic Church's liturgical movement, which had been discussed at Vatican II. This version was adopted as the official prayer book in 1979 after an initial three-year trial use. Several conservative parishes, however, continued to use the 1928 version.

Ordination of women

On July 29, 1974, a group of women known as the Philadelphia Eleven were irregularly ordained as priests in the Episcopal Church by bishops Daniel Corrigan, Robert L. DeWitt, and Edward R. Welles, assisted by Antonio Ramos. [43] On September 7, 1975, four more women (the "Washington Four") were irregularly ordained by retired bishop George W. Barrett. [44] In the wake of the controversy over the ordination of the Philadelphia Eleven, the General Convention permitted the ordination of women in 1976 and recognized the ordinations of the 15 forerunners. The first women were canonically ordained to the priesthood in 1977. The first woman to become a bishop, Barbara Harris, was consecrated on February 11, 1989. [45]

At the same time, there was still tolerance for those dioceses who opposed women's ordination. In 1994, the General Convention affirmed that there was value in the theological position that women should not be ordained. In 1997, however, the General Convention then determined that "the canons regarding the ordination, licensing, and deployment of women are mandatory" and required noncompliant dioceses to issue status reports on their progress towards full compliance. [46]

In 2006, the General Convention elected Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop. She is the first and, currently, the only woman to become a primate in the Anglican Communion. Schori's election was controversial in the wider Anglican Communion because not all of the communion recognizes the ordination of women. [47]

At the time of the formation of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), three U.S. dioceses did not ordain women as priests or bishops: San Joaquin, Quincy, and Fort Worth. Following the departures of their conservative majorities, all three dioceses now ordain women. With the October 16, 2010, ordination of Margaret Lee, in the Peoria-based Diocese of Quincy, Illinois, women have been ordained as priests in all 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States. [48]

Affirmation of LGBT people

The Episcopal Church affirmed at the 1976 General Convention that homosexuals are "children of God" who deserve acceptance and pastoral care from the church and equal protection under the law. The first openly gay person ordained as a priest was Ellen Barrett in 1977. [49] Despite such an affirmation of gay rights, the General Convention affirmed in 1991 that "physical sexual expression" is only appropriate within the monogamous lifelong "union of husband and wife". [50]

Gene Robinson in 2013 GeneRobinson.jpg
Gene Robinson in 2013

The church elected its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in June 2003. [51] News of Robinson's election caused a crisis in both the American church and the wider Anglican Communion. In October 2003, Anglican primates (the heads of the Anglican Communion's 38 member churches) convened an emergency meeting. The meeting's final communiqué included the warning that if Robinson's consecration proceeded, it would "tear the fabric of the communion at its deepest level". [52] The news of his ordination caused such an outrage that during the ceremony, at which his long-time partner was present, Robinson was forced to wear a bullet-proof vest beneath his vestments, and he also received numerous death threats following his installation as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.

In 2009, the General Convention charged the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to develop theological and liturgical resources for same-sex blessings and report back to the General Convention in 2012. It also gave bishops an option to provide "generous pastoral support", especially where civil authorities have legalized same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships. [53]

On July 14, 2009, the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops voted that "any ordained ministry" is open to gay men and lesbians. The New York Times said the move was "likely to send shockwaves through the Anglican Communion". This vote ended a moratorium on ordaining gay bishops passed in 2006 and passed in spite of Archbishop Rowan Williams's personal call at the start of the convention that, "I hope and pray that there won't be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart." [54]

On July 10, 2012, the Episcopal Church approved an official liturgy for the blessing of same-sex relationships. This liturgy was not a marriage rite, but the blessing included an exchange of vows and the couple's agreement to enter into a lifelong committed relationship. [55]

On June 29, 2015, at the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, a resolution removing the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman was passed by the House of Bishops with 129 in favor, 26 against, and 5 abstaining. [56] The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, expressed "deep concern" over the ruling. [57] In 2016, Anglican leaders temporarily suspended the Episcopal Church from key positions in their global fellowship in response to the church changing its canons on marriage. [58] [59]

Separations from the church

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina separated in 2012 and is now a diocese of the Anglican Church in North America ECUSA South Carolina.png
The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina separated in 2012 and is now a diocese of the Anglican Church in North America

Following the ordination of Bp. Gene Robinson in 2003, some members of a number of congregations and six dioceses left the Episcopal Church. [60] For example, in Cleveland, Ohio, four parishes “with about 1,300 active members, decided to leave the U.S. church and the local diocese because of 'divergent understandings of the authority of scripture and traditional Christian teaching,’” [61] and the Pittsburgh diocese voted to leave the church because they felt the church had been “hijacked” by liberal bishops. [62]

Many of those who separated themselves joined the Continuing Anglican movement or advocated Anglican realignment, claiming alignment with overseas Anglican provinces including the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of America and the Church of Nigeria. [63]

Differences over social issues led to the formation of the Anglican Church in North America which has over 1,000 parishes and has grown to over 134,000 members. [64] Episcopal Church leaders, particularly former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, responded by taking a firm stance against the separatists, initiating litigation against departing dioceses and parishes that has cost all parties tens of millions of dollars; one estimate has the Episcopal Church spending over $42 million and separatists roughly $18 million, for a total of over $60 million in court costs. [65] Litigation has largely centered around church properties, with the Episcopal leadership asserting ownership of buildings occupied by departing congregations. [66] [67]

On October 15, 2012, the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina voted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church and become an autonomous Anglican diocese after a long period of conflict with the national leadership of the Episcopal Church. Established in 1785, the diocese was one of the nine original dioceses of the Episcopal Church. On 11 March 2017, The Diocese of South Carolina voted unanimously to affiliate with ACNA at their 226th Convention, held in Summerville. ACNA's Provincial Council voted unanimously to formally receive the Diocese of South Carolina at ACNA's Third Provincial Assembly, meeting in Wheaton, Illinois, on 27 June 2017. [68] [69] [70]

Church property disputes

In a letter to the House of Bishops during summer 2009, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori instructed local dioceses not to sell parish property to departing groups. She stated: "We do not make settlements that encourage religious bodies who seek to replace The Episcopal Church". [71]

Before Schori took this stand, prior Bishops had treated parish property disputes as internal diocesan matters that are "not subject to the review or oversight of the presiding bishop". One example was when then-Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold told the Diocese of Western Louisiana on May 11, 2006 that the national church involved itself in parish property disputes only upon invitation of the local bishop and diocesan standing committees. [72] Schori's letter stated that her firm stance was the consensus of the Council of Advice and expressed hope that "those who have departed can gain clarity about their own identity". [71]

After the South Carolina Diocese voted to withdraw, it sued the national Episcopal Church to retain control over its property, and in a court decision announced in February 2015, the local diocese kept $500 million worth of property including the historic Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul. Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein ruled that the conservative diocese and its parishes are "the owners of their real, personal and intellectual property" and that the national church has no legal interest in the properties. [73] However, this ruling was substantially overturned by the Supreme Court of South Carolina on August 2, 2017, which issued a split decision that effectively returns the property of 29 parishes and the St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, [74] while seven parishes retained their properties because they had never ratified the Episcopal Church's Dennis Canon (a church bylaw meant to impose a trust on parish property). [75] Because of a tie on the court, the Circuit Court's ruling on the name "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" and related intellectual property remains in place. [74]


St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Shreveport, Louisiana St. Mark's Cathedral, Shreveport, LA IMG 2361.JPG
St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Shreveport, Louisiana

As of 2018, the Episcopal Church reports 1,835,931 baptized members. The majority of members are in the United States, where the Church has 1,676,349 members. Outside of the U.S. the Church has 159,582. Total average Sunday attendance (ASA) for 2018 was 562,529 (533,206 in the U.S. and 29,323 outside the U.S.), a decrease of 24.7% percent from 2008. [76]

According to ARIS/Barna, 3.5 million Americans self–identified as Episcopalians, highlighting "a gap between those who are affiliated with the church (on membership rolls), versus those who self-identify [as Episcopalians]". [77] Church Pension Group also cited having 3.5 million adherents in 2002. [78] More recently, in 2014, Pew Research found that approximately 1.2 percent of 245 million U.S adults, around 3 million people, self–identified as mainline Episcopalian/Anglican. [3]

According to data collected in 2000, the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Virginia have the highest rates of adherents per capita, and states along the East Coast generally have a higher number of adherents per capita than in other parts of the country. [79] New York was the state with the largest total number of adherents, over 200,000. [80] In 2013, the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti was the largest single diocese, with 84,301 baptized members, which constitute slightly over half of the church's foreign membership. [76]

According to the latest statistics U.S. membership dropped 2.7 percent from a reported 1,866,758 members in 2013 to 1,745,156 in 2016, a loss of 121,602 persons. Attendance took an even steeper hit, with the average number of Sunday worshipers dropping from 623,691 in 2013 to 570,454 in 2016, a decline of 53,237 persons in the pews, down 8.5 percent. Congregations dropped to 6,473. [81]

The Episcopal Church experienced notable growth in the first half of the 20th century, but like many mainline churches, it has had a decline in membership in more recent decades. [82] Membership grew from 1.1 million members in 1925 to a peak of over 3.4 million members in the mid-1960s. [83] Between 1970 and 1990, membership declined from about 3.2 million to about 2.4 million. [83] Once changes in how membership is counted are taken into consideration, the Episcopal Church's membership numbers were broadly flat throughout the 1990s, with a slight growth in the first years of the 21st century. [84] [85] [86] [87] [88] A loss of 115,000 members was reported for the years 2003–05. [89] Some theories about the decline in membership include a failure to sufficiently reach beyond ethnic barriers in an increasingly diverse society, and the low fertility rates prevailing among the predominant ethnic groups traditionally belonging to the church. In 1965, there were 880,000 children in Episcopal Sunday School programs. By 2001, the number had declined to 297,000. [90]


In the twentieth century, Episcopalians tended to be wealthier [91] and more educated (having more graduate and postgraduate degrees per capita) than most other religious groups in the United States, [92] and were disproportionately represented in the upper reaches of American business, [93] law, and politics. [94] [ needs update ]

In the 1970s, a Fortune magazine study found one-in-five of the country's largest businesses and one-in-three of its largest banks was run by an Episcopalian. [91] [ needs update ] Numbers of the most wealthy and affluent American families such as the Vanderbilts, Astors, Whitneys, Morgans and Harrimans are Episcopalians. [91] The Episcopal Church also has the highest number of graduate and post-graduate degrees per capita (56%) [95] of any other Christian denomination in the United States, [96] as well as the most high-income earners. [97] According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, Episcopalians ranked as the third wealthiest religious group in the United States, with 35% of Episcopalians living in households with incomes of at least $100,000. [98]


The Episcopal Church is governed according to episcopal polity with its own system of canon law. This means that the church is organized into dioceses led by bishops in consultation with representative bodies. It is a unitary body, in that the power of the General Convention is not limited by the individual dioceses. The church has, however, a highly decentralized structure and characteristics of a confederation. [99]

Parishes and dioceses

At the local level, there are 6,447 Episcopal congregations, each of which elects a vestry or bishop's committee. Subject to the approval of its diocesan bishop, the vestry of each parish elects a priest, called the rector, who has spiritual jurisdiction in the parish and selects assistant clergy, both deacons and priests. (There is a difference between vestry and clergy elections – clergy are ordained members usually selected from outside the parish, whereas any member in good standing of a parish is eligible to serve on the vestry.) The diocesan bishop, however, appoints the clergy for all missions and may choose to do so for non-self-supporting parishes.

The middle judicatory consists of a diocese headed by a bishop who is assisted by a standing committee. [100] The bishop and standing committee are elected by the diocesan convention whose members are selected by the congregations. The election of a bishop requires the consent of a majority of standing committees and diocesan bishops. [101] Conventions meet annually to consider legislation (such as revisions to the diocesan constitution and canons) and speak for the diocese. Dioceses are organized into nine provinces. Each province has a synod and a mission budget, but it has no authority over its member dioceses.

There are 110 dioceses in the United States, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Venezuela and the Virgin Islands. The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and the Navajoland Area Mission are jurisdictions similar to a diocese. [8] [9] [10] The Presiding Bishop is one of three Anglican primates who together exercise metropolitan jurisdiction over the Episcopal Church of Cuba, which is an extraprovincial diocese in the Anglican Communion. [102]

National church

The Washington National Cathedral is the seat of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church as well as the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, located in Washington, D.C., is operated under the more familiar name of Washington National Cathedral. DCA 08 2009 National Cathedral 6981.JPG
The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, located in Washington, D.C., is operated under the more familiar name of Washington National Cathedral.

The highest legislative body of the Episcopal Church is the triennial General Convention, consisting of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. All active (whether diocesan, coadjutor, suffragan, or assistant) and retired bishops make up the over 300 members of the House of Bishops. Diocesan conventions elect over 800 representatives (each diocese elects four laity and four clergy) to the House of Deputies. The House of Deputies elects a president and vice-president to preside at meetings. General Convention enacts two types of legislation. The first type is the rules by which the church is governed as contained in the Constitution and Canons; the second type are broad guidelines on church policy called resolutions. [103] Either house may propose legislation. [104] The House of Deputies only meets as a full body once every three years; however, the House of Bishops meets regularly throughout the triennium between conventions.

The real work of General Convention is done by interim bodies, the most powerful being the Executive Council, which oversees the work of the national church during the triennium. The council has 40 members; 20 are directly elected by the General Convention, 18 are elected by the nine provinces, and the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies are ex officio members. [104] Other interim bodies include a number of standing commissions which study and draft policy proposals for consideration and report back to General Convention. Each standing commission consists of three bishops, three priests or deacons, and six laypersons. Bishops are appointed by the Presiding Bishop while the other clergy and laypersons are appointed by the president of the House of Deputies. [104]

The Presiding Bishop is elected from and by the House of Bishops and confirmed by the House of Deputies for a nine-year term. [105] The Presiding Bishop is the chief pastor and primate of the Episcopal Church and is charged with providing leadership in the development of the Church's program as well as speaking on behalf of the Church. [106] The Presiding Bishop does not possess a territorial see; since the 1970s, however, the Presiding Bishop has enjoyed extraordinary jurisdiction (metropolitical authority) and has authority to visit dioceses for sacramental and preaching ministry, for consulting bishops, and for related purposes. [107] The Presiding Bishop chairs the House of Bishops as well as the Executive Council of the General Convention. In addition, the Presiding Bishop directs the Episcopal Church Center, the national administrative headquarters of the denomination. Located at 815 Second Avenue, New York City, New York, the center is often referred to by Episcopalians simply as "815". [108]

A system of ecclesiastical courts is provided for under Title IV of the canons of General Convention. These courts are empowered to discipline and depose deacons, priests, and bishops.

Worship and liturgy

A procession in St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Memphis, Tennessee, in 2002 Procession at St. Marys Episcopal Cathedral.jpg
A procession in St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Memphis, Tennessee, in 2002

Varying styles and degrees of liturgical practice prevail within the church, including: traditional hymns and anthems, more modern religious music, Anglican chant, liturgical dance, charismatic prayer, and vested clergy. As varied as services can be, the central binding aspect is the Book of Common Prayer or supplemental liturgies. Most Episcopal services are similar in structure and liturgy to the Roman Catholic Church, as the Eucharist is the central focus of the service (sometimes called Mass in High Church and some Broad Church circles). Generally, Episcopal churches have retained features such as the altar rail, the inclusion or exclusion of which does not elicit much controversy, but usually celebrate in the versus populum orientation.

Often a congregation or a particular service will be referred to as Low Church or High Church. In theory:

High altar of an Anglo-Catholic church ad orientem style High altar at St. Mary's Episcopal Church..JPG
High altar of an Anglo-Catholic church ad orientem style

A majority of Episcopal services could be considered to be "High Church" while still falling somewhat short of a typical Anglo-Catholic "very" high church service. In contrast, "Low Church" services are somewhat rarer. However, while some Episcopalians refer to their churches by these labels, often there is overlapping, and the basic rites do not greatly differ. There are also variations that blend elements of all three and have their own unique features, such as New England Episcopal churches, which have elements drawn from Puritan practices, combining the traditions of "high church" with the simplicity of "low church". Typical parish worship features Bible readings from the Old Testament as well as from both the Epistles and the Gospels of the New Testament. Some latitude in selecting Bible readings is allowed, but every service includes at least a passage from one of the Gospels, as well as the praying of the Lord's Prayer.

In the Eucharist or Holy Communion service, the Book of Common Prayer specifies that bread and wine are consecrated for consumption by the people. A valid communion is made in either species, so those wishing for whatever reason to avoid alcohol can decline the cup and still make a valid communion. A Eucharist can be part of a wedding to celebrate a sacramental marriage and of a funeral as a thank offering (sacrifice) to God and for the comfort of the mourners.

The veneration of saints in the Episcopal Church is a continuation of an ancient tradition from the early Church which honors important people of the Christian faith. The usage of the term "saint" is similar to Catholic and Orthodox traditions. There are explicit references in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer to invoking the aid of the prophets, patriarchs, saints, martyrs and the Virgin Mary as in an optional prayer in the committal at a funeral, p. 504. In general Anglicans pray with and for the saints in the fellowship of the saints, not to them, although their intercessions may be requested. Those inclined to the Anglo-Catholic traditions may explicitly invoke saints as intercessors in prayer.

Book of Common Prayer

Book of Common Prayer in the Church of Saint Mary, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines. The Episcopal Church of the Philippines is an offshoot of the PECUSA, and thus models most of its liturgical texts on American versions. Book of Common Prayers in a Church in Sagda.jpg
Book of Common Prayer in the Church of Saint Mary, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines. The Episcopal Church of the Philippines is an offshoot of the PECUSA, and thus models most of its liturgical texts on American versions.

The Episcopal Church publishes its own Book of Common Prayer (BCP) (similar to other Anglican prayer books), containing most of the worship services (or liturgies) used in the Episcopal Church. Because of its widespread use in the church, the BCP is both a reflection and source of theology for Episcopalians.

The full name of the BCP is: The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church Together with The Psalter or Psalms of David According to the use of The Episcopal Church.

Previous American BCPs were issued in 1789, 1892, and 1928. A proposed BCP was issued in 1786 but not adopted. The BCP is in the public domain; however, any new revisions of the BCP are copyrighted until they are approved by the General Convention, after which they are placed in the public domain.

The current edition dates from 1979 and is marked by language modernization and, in returning to ancient Christian tradition, a restoration of the Eucharist as the central liturgy of the church. The 1979 version reflects the theological and worship changes of the ecumenical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s. On the whole, the revision changed the theological emphasis of the church to be more Catholic in nature. In 1979, the Convention adopted the revision as the "official" BCP and required churches using the previous 1928 prayer book to also use the new revision. There was enough strife in implementing and adopting the 1979 BCP that an apology was issued at the 2000 General Convention [110] to any who were "offended or alienated during the time of liturgical transition to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer". The 2000 General Convention also authorized the occasional use of some parts of the 1928 book, under the direction of the bishop.

The 1979 edition contains a provision for the use of "traditional" (Elizabethan) language under various circumstances not directly provided for in the book, and the Anglican Service Book was produced accordingly, as "a traditional language adaptation of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer together with the Psalter or Psalms of David and Additional Devotions".

Belief and practice

The episcopal consecration of the 8th bishop of Northern Indiana in 2016 by the laying on of hands ConsecrationSparks.jpg
The episcopal consecration of the 8th bishop of Northern Indiana in 2016 by the laying on of hands

The center of Episcopal teaching is the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. [111] The Doctrine of the Episcopal Church is found in the Canon of Holy Scripture as understood in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds and in the sacramental rites, the Ordinal and Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer. [112] Some of these teachings include:

The full catechism is included in the Book of Common Prayer and is posted on the Episcopal website. [114] In practice, not all Episcopalians hold all of these beliefs, but ordained clergy are required to "solemnly engage to conform" to this doctrine. [115]

The Episcopal Church follows the via media or "middle way" between Protestant and Roman Catholic doctrine and practices: that is both Catholic and Reformed. Although many Episcopalians identify with this concept, those whose convictions lean toward either evangelicalism or Anglo-Catholicism may not. [116]

A broad spectrum of theological views is represented within the Episcopal Church. Some Episcopal members or theologians hold evangelical positions, affirming the authority of scripture over all. The Episcopal Church website glossary defines the sources of authority as a balance between scripture, tradition, and reason. These three are characterized as a "three-legged stool" which will topple if any one overbalances the other. It also notes [117]

The Anglican balancing of the sources of authority has been criticized as clumsy or "muddy." It has been associated with the Anglican affinity for seeking the mean between extremes and living the via media. It has also been associated with the Anglican willingness to tolerate and comprehend opposing viewpoints instead of imposing tests of orthodoxy or resorting to heresy trials.

This balance of scripture, tradition and reason is traced to the work of Richard Hooker, a 16th-century apologist. In Hooker's model, scripture is the primary means of arriving at doctrine and things stated plainly in scripture are accepted as true. Issues that are ambiguous are determined by tradition, which is checked by reason. [118] Noting the role of personal experience in Christian life, some Episcopalians have advocated following the example of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Methodist theology by thinking in terms of a "Fourth Leg" of "experience". This understanding is highly dependent on the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher.

A public example of this struggle between different Christian positions in the church has been the 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man living with a long-term partner. The acceptance/rejection of his consecration is motivated by different views on the understanding of scripture. [119] This struggle has some members concerned that the church may not continue its relationship with the larger Anglican Church. Others, however, view this pluralism as an asset, allowing a place for both sides to balance each other.

Comedian and Episcopalian Robin Williams once described the Episcopal faith (and, in a performance in London, specifically the Church of England) as "Catholic Lite – same rituals, half the guilt". [120]

Social positions

Economic issues

In 1991, the church's general convention recommended parity in pay and benefits between clergy and lay employees in equivalent positions. [121]

Several times between 1979 and 2003, the convention expressed concern over affordable housing and supported work to provide affordable housing. [122]

In 1982 and 1997, the convention reaffirmed the church's commitment to eradicating poverty and malnutrition, and challenged parishes to increase ministries to the poor. [123]

The convention urged the church in 1997 and 2000 to promote living wages for all. [124] [125]

In 2003, the convention urged U.S. legislators to raise the national minimum wage, and to establish a living wage with health benefits as the national standard. [126] [127]

Marriage of same-sex couples

At its 2015 triennial general convention, the church adopted "canonical and liturgical changes to provide marriage equality for Episcopalians". The canonical change eliminated "language defining marriage as between a man and a woman". The "two new marriage rites" contain language that allows "them to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples". [6] The blessing of same-sex relationships is not uniform throughout the Episcopal Church. Following the 2015 general convention, bishops were able to determine whether churches and priests within their dioceses were permitted to use the new liturgies. Bishops who did not permit their use were to connect same-sex couples to a diocese where the liturgies were allowed. [128] However, following the 2018 general convention, resolution B012 was amended to "make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have access to these liturgies". This effectually granted all churches and clergy, with or without the support of their bishop, the ability to perform same-sex marriages. [129] The church also opposes any state or federal constitutional amendments designed to prohibit the marriages of same-sex couples. [130]

Ordination of LGBT-identified individuals

Openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals are eligible to be ordained. [131] [132]

Racial equality

In 1861, a pamphlet entitled, A Scriptural, Ecclesiastical, and Historical View of Slavery , written by John Henry Hopkins, attempted to justify slavery based on the New Testament and gave a clear insight into the Episcopal Church's involvement in slavery. Bishop Hopkins' Letter on Slavery Ripped Up and his Misuse of the Sacred Scriptures Exposed, written by G.W. Hyer in 1863, opposed the points mentioned in Hopkins' pamphlet and revealed a startling divide in the Episcopal Church over the issue of slavery. [133] In 1991, the General Convention declared "the practice of racism is sin," [134] and in 2006, a unanimous House of Bishops endorsed Resolution A123 apologizing for complicity in the institution of slavery, and silence over "Jim Crow" laws, segregation, and racial discrimination. [135] In 2018, following the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry said that "the stain of bigotry has once again covered our land" and called on Episcopalians to choose "organized love intent on creating God's beloved community on Earth" rather than hate. [136]


The Church does not approve of the use of abortion as a means of birth control or family planning, but considers it a woman's right to receive one. [137] The Church opposes any legislation which would prevent women from obtaining abortions or information about abortions. [138]


The Episcopal Church disapproves of assisted suicide and other forms of euthanasia, but does teach that it is permissible to withdraw medical treatment, such as artificial nutrition and hydration, when the burden of such treatment outweighs its benefits to an individual. [139]

Agencies and programs

Society for the Increase of the Ministry (SIM)

SIM is the only organization raising funds on a national basis for Episcopal seminarian support. SIM's founding purpose in 1857 – "to find suitable persons for the Episcopal ministry and aid them in acquiring a thorough education". SIM has awarded scholarships to qualified, full-time seminary students. [140]

Episcopal Relief & Development

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church of the United States. It helps to rebuild after disasters and aims to empower people by offering lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease. Episcopal Relief and Development programs focus on alleviating hunger, improving food supply, creating economic opportunities, strengthening communities, promoting health, fighting disease, responding to disasters, and rebuilding communities. [141]


There are about 60 trust funds administered by the Episcopal Church which offer scholarships to young people affiliated with the church. Qualifying considerations often relate to historical missionary work of the church among American Indians and African-Americans, as well as work in China and other foreign missions. [142] [143] There are special programs for both American Indians [144] and African-Americans [145] interested in training for the ministry.

Ecumenical relations

Like the other churches of the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church has entered into full communion with the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar. The Episcopal Church is also in a relationship of full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [146] and the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in America. [147] The Episcopal Church entered into a full communion agreement with the Church of Sweden at its General Convention in Salt Lake City on June 28, 2015.

The Episcopal Church maintains ecumenical dialogs with the United Methodist Church and the Moravian Church in America, and participates in pan-Anglican dialogs with the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Roman Catholic Church. In 2006 a relation of interim Eucharistic sharing was inaugurated with the United Methodist Church, a step that may ultimately lead to full communion.

Historically Anglican churches have had strong ecumenical ties with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Episcopal Church particularly with the Russian Orthodox Church, but relations in more recent years have been strained by the ordination of women and the ordination of Gene Robinson to the episcopate. A former relation of full communion with the Polish National Catholic Church (once a part of the Union of Utrecht) was broken off by the PNCC in 1976 over the ordination of women.

The Episcopal Church was a founding member of the Consultation on Church Union and participates in its successor, Churches Uniting in Christ. The Episcopal Church is a founding member of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the new Christian Churches Together in the USA. Dioceses and parishes are frequently members of local ecumenical councils as well.

Historical societies

There are two historical societies of American Episcopalianism: Historical Society of the Episcopal Church or National Episcopal Historians and Archivists (NEHA).[ citation needed ]

Church Publishing

Church Publishing Incorporated (Church Publishing Inc., CPI) began as the Church Hymnal Corporation in 1918, dedicated initially to publishing a single work, The Hymnal 1918, which still remains in print. It is the official publisher for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Imprints include Church Publishing, Morehouse Publishing (independently founded in 1884) and Seabury Books (the "trade" imprint). [148]

See also

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Homosexuality and the Anglican Communion

Since the 1990s, the Anglican Communion has struggled with controversy regarding homosexuality in the church. In 1998, the 13th Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops passed a resolution "rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture". However, this is not legally binding. "Like all Lambeth Conference resolutions, it is not legally binding on all provinces of the Communion, including the Church of England, though it commends an essential and persuasive view of the attitude of the Communion." "Anglican national churches in Brazil, South Africa, South India, New Zealand and Canada have taken steps toward approving and celebrating same-sex relationships amid strong resistance among other national churches within the 80 million-member global body. The Episcopal Church in the U.S. has allowed gay marriage since 2015." "Church of England clergy have appeared to signal support for gay marriage after they rejected a bishops’ report which said that only a man and woman could marry in church." The Church of England's General Synod is set to discuss a diocesan motion "to create a set of formal services and prayers to bless those who have had a same-sex marriage or civil partnership". At General Synod in 2019, the Church of England announced that same-gender couples may remain married and recognised as married after one spouse experiences a gender transition provided that the spouses identified as opposite genders at the time of the marriage.

Church of South India union of Anglican and Protestant churches in South India

The Church of South India (CSI) is the second largest Christian church in India based on the number of members and is result of union of Anglican and number of Protestant churches in South India. The Church of South India is the successor of a number of Anglican and Protestant denominations in India, including the Church of England, the British Methodist Church and the Church of Scotland after Indian Independence. It combined the South India United Church ; the then 14 Anglican Dioceses of South India and one in Sri Lanka; and the South Indian District of the Methodist church. With a membership of nearly four million, CSI is one of four united churches in the Anglican Communion, the others being the Church of North India, the Church of Pakistan and the Church of Bangladesh.

History of the Anglican Communion

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The Pastoral Provision, in the context of the Catholic Church in the United States, is a set of practices and norms by which bishops are authorized to provide spiritual care for Roman Catholics coming from the Anglican tradition, by establishing parishes for them and ordaining priests from among them. The Pastoral Provision still provides a way for individuals to become priest in territorial dioceses, even though Anglicanorum Coetibus was declared which led to the establishment of Personal Ordinariates, another mechanism for former Anglicans to join the Catholic Church.

Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (Episcopal Church)

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is a diocese of the Episcopal Church, which in turn is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The diocese includes a geographic area of 24 counties in the north central part of Texas. As of 2012, it included 20 churches and a number of other congregations in the process of reorganization. The diocese is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. Property claims related to the cathedral are currently in legal dispute.

The Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) is an Anglican church of evangelical Episcopalian heritage. It was founded in 1873 in New York City by George David Cummins, formerly a bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

Katharine Jefferts Schori Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America

Katharine Jefferts Schori is the former Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of the United States. Previously elected as the 9th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, she was the first woman elected as a primate in the Anglican Communion. Jefferts Schori was elected at the 75th General Convention on June 18, 2006, and invested at Washington National Cathedral on November 4, 2006 and continued until November 1, 2015, when Michael Bruce Curry was invested in the position. She took part in her first General Convention of the Episcopal Church as Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in July 2009.

Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

The Diocese of Virginia is a diocese of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America encompassing 38 counties in the northern and central parts of the state of Virginia. The diocese was organized in 1785 and is one of the Episcopal Church's nine original dioceses. However, the diocese has origins in colonial Virginia. The diocese had 73,108 members and 182 congregations.

Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is a diocese in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Geographically, it encompasses 11 counties in Western Pennsylvania. It was formed in 1865 by dividing the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. The diocesan cathedral is Trinity Cathedral in downtown Pittsburgh. The Rt. Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell was consecrated and seated as its current bishop in autumn 2012.

Anglican ministry

The Anglican ministry is both the leadership and agency of Christian service in the Anglican Communion. "Ministry" commonly refers to the office of ordained clergy: the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons. More accurately, Anglican ministry includes many laypeople who devote themselves to the ministry of the church, either individually or in lower/assisting offices such as lector, acolyte, sub-deacon, Eucharistic minister, cantor, musicians, parish secretary or assistant, warden, vestry member, etc. Ultimately, all baptized members of the church are considered to partake in the ministry of the Body of Christ. "...[I]t might be useful if Anglicans dropped the word minister when referring to the clergy...In our tradition, ordained persons are either bishops, priests, or deacons, and should be referred to as such."

History of the Episcopal Church (United States)

The history of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America has its origins in the Church of England, a church which stresses its continuity with the ancient Western church and claims to maintain apostolic succession. Its close links to the Crown led to its reorganization on an independent basis in the 1780s. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was characterized sociologically by a disproportionately large number of high status Americans as well as English immigrants; for example, more than a quarter of all presidents of the United States have been Episcopalians. Although it was not among the leading participants of the abolitionist movement in the early 19th century, by the early 20th century its social engagement had increased to the point that it was an important participant in the Social Gospel movement, though it never provided much support for the Prohibitionist movement. Like other mainline churches in the United States, its membership decreased from the 1960s. This was also a period in which the church took a more open attitude on the role of women and toward homosexuality, while engaging in liturgical revision parallel to that of the Roman Catholic Church in the post Vatican II era.

The Anglican realignment is a movement among some Anglicans to align themselves under new or alternative oversight within or outside the Anglican Communion. This movement is primarily active in parts of the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada. Two of the major events which contributed to the movement were the 2002 decision of the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada to authorise a rite of blessing for same-sex unions, and the nomination of two openly gay priests in 2003 to become bishops. Jeffrey John, an openly gay priest with a long-time partner, was appointed to be the next Bishop of Reading in the Church of England and the General Convention of the Episcopal Church ratified the election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay non-celibate man, as Bishop of New Hampshire. Jeffrey John ultimately declined the appointment due to pressure.

The Anglican Orthodox Church (AOC) claims to be the second oldest conservative Anglican denomination and the oldest to be formed in the United States in the 20th century. The AOC is not part of the Anglican Communion and does not have a formal relationship with the See of Canterbury.

United Episcopal Church of North America

The United Episcopal Church of North America (UECNA) is an Anglican church that is part of the Continuing Anglican movement. It is not part of the Anglican Communion.

William Howard Love is the ninth and current Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany. A theological conservative, he is a prominent leader of conservative Episcopalians at a time of disunity and disagreement in the Episcopal Church over issues surrounding human sexuality and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Episcopal Diocese of Quincy

The Episcopal Diocese of Quincy was a diocese of the Episcopal Church in western Illinois from 1877 to 2013. The cathedral seat was originally in Quincy but was moved to St. Paul's Cathedral in Peoria in 1963. In order to avoid confusion with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria, the diocese retained the name of the location of its original "home" city, Quincy, where its cathedral seat was St. John's.

The Episcopal Diocese of Liberia is a diocese in the Anglican Communion founded by missionaries from the Episcopal Church.


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Further reading